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Old September 14, 2012, 01:42 PM   #1
Gunnut17
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How Can Using a Suppressed Weapon In Self/Home Defense Get You Convicted?

I see posts on discussion forums, where someone mentions wanting to use something such as an AR with 11.5" upper and suppressor for HD. And almost immediately, someone practically chews them out about how sorry they will be if they use it in defense of there home.

Where in any law does it say you cannot use a legally owned NFA item to defend yourself?

All a suppressor would be doing in a HD situation is keeping your gun quiet enough to not deafen you for life. Not to mention giving you a gun that recoils less, depending on the suppressor.

So, could someone explain how a suppressor, attached to a gun long before it needs used, makes you a murderer/
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Old September 14, 2012, 02:09 PM   #2
Glenn E. Meyer
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Frank will probably chime in but with no offense the post is too simplistic.

Using legally possessed weapon or mod won't automatically convict you.
That is a throw-away statement by folks who don't understand jury dynamics.

It goes like this:

1. You are charged because your action is not seen as righteous by the authorities - grand jury, DA.

2. You go to trial.

3. The DA will establish a story of why you should be convicted. The use of some esoteric weapon (which we the choir think is fine - but not all, Zumbo and research studies and look at the current Recoil mag thread) may cast doubt on the validity of your claim. It implies you are less than truthful or were perhaps overly aggressive and too quick on the trigger.

This flow as been documented in several cases and in jury research.

Some folks deny it because - well, that's their problem.

Saying a suppressor makes you a mass murderer is just, no offense, a rant and misinterpreting the subtle nature of the issue. It is the influence of appearance to the jury based on conflicting stories. That has been studied into the ground. Deny it if it makes you feel good.

Your lawyer will have to construct a tale that is convincing using emotion and logic.

Remember if someone says it's a good shoot, blah, blah - that's nice but when you are on trial (which is the point we are discussing) it is not a good shoot or why are you wearing the pretty orange suit and shackles?

Think Zimmerman (not to the discuss his case in detail) would have a stronger position if he had a suppressed Glock or a SW 500? Appearances count.
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Last edited by Glenn E. Meyer; September 14, 2012 at 02:49 PM.
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Old September 14, 2012, 02:19 PM   #3
zukiphile
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On 2.6.09, Erich wrote the following. It is an excellent summary of the issue.

Quote:
Former prosecutor, longtime defense lawyer here.

First of all, I'm not able to see your photo on this machine and thus am commenting in general and not on your specific weapon.

It depends on who catches the case. Some cops are offended by "tactical" weapons, as are some prosecutors and grand jurors. The attitude of the cops and prosecutors involved in reviewing your shooting will certainly be reflected in the treatment that your case receives. Your appearance, the part of town in which you live, your connection to the person who was shot, the weapon that you used, your profession, your employment status, your attitude, and all the information about the person shot - these are all things that will be in the background when the state actors review your case and decide how to handle it. So will the overall political climate of your locale - this will also affect how the grand jury views your case after the shooting.

Your use of a "tactical" gun is not likely to affect a defensive shooting case in which Charles Manson bursts into your five-year-old's birthday party in the middle of the afternoon wielding an RPG and singing "Helter Skelter." But, in my considerable experience working on homicide cases, things are rarely so clear. Like Mas Ayoob advises regarding the use of handloads in defensive weapons, it behooves one to think before adding in another potentially detrimental variable.





I own EBR-type things, but my "house rifle" is a lovely walnut-stocked Navy Arms 92 short rifle levergun . . . a "cowboy gun." Concern over appearances played a part in my selecting that gun for that role, even though I'm in a fairly gun-friendly area and defensive shootings with AK-47s have been no-billed by local grand juries. You may come to a different conclusion, but you are wise to consider this issue in making your determination of what's right for you.

As far as "how to deal with the issue in a hypothetical homicide trial"? No one can answer that, as the relevant variables in play aren't yet before us. You are wise to have the ability to coherently and reasonably explain the need for any additions to your base gear and your rationale for selecting that base gear. You would be wise to be prepared with the contact information for a good criminal defense attorney (how to find this has been discussed here many times) in the event that - God forbid - you would ever need one.
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Old September 14, 2012, 02:21 PM   #4
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I think for the most part people think back to the HK rep whose name is currently escaping me who defended himself and his wife with a competitor's fully automatic weapon that he happened to have in the truck at the time.

I'm sure someone will recall the man's name, but it was a very messy and long legal battle for him - even in spite of the fact that the rifle was used in legitimate self-defense
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Old September 14, 2012, 05:32 PM   #5
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As usual, jurisdiction matters. Some states have laws that would make the usual home defense against an invader a slam dunk for the defense. I'm not sure how the kind of gun I'd use would ever be an issue in MO with our castle doctrine law. In states without such protections, it may depend on your local prosecutor's office and police department- if the attitudes are very anti-RKBA, they may be inclined to be prejudiced against certain firearm types and that could make them more likely to file charges (but if they're of that bent, even using a 16 gauge side by side over a SBR'd and suppressed AR-15 wouldn't redeem you in their eyes).

If push came to shove, I'd have little worry about using a suppressed firearm in self defense in my home. I can see how others in some other states might be more resistant to doing that.
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Old September 14, 2012, 05:34 PM   #6
raimius
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It's more about appearances and the jury's perception than legality. In a clear-cut case, it wouldn't matter, as it wouldn't make it that far. It's the "fuzzy" cases where appearances make the difference.
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Old September 14, 2012, 06:59 PM   #7
Frank Ettin
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As others have mentioned, it's a matter of jury perception.
  • Yes, if it's a "good shoot" it won't matter. But you're not the one deciding if it's your intentional act of extreme violence against another person was justified. If the DA/grand jury does not agree with you that it was justified, it won't be a good shoot unless your trial jury decides it was.

  • Jurors can be influenced by all sorts of thing. We know from post verdict juror interviews that Harold Fish's jurors were troubled by his use of JHP ammunition. And our own Glenn Meyer has written this excellent paper on the effect choice of self defense weapon can have on a jury.
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Old September 17, 2012, 08:24 AM   #8
Willie Sutton
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Want to make things easy for "defending your home defense" ?

(1): Find out what pistol and ammunition combination your local PD carries.

(2): Find out what shotgun and ammunition combination your local PD issues.

(3): Buy and use them as your defensive arms.


Hard for others to add fuel to a case when your defensive arms are exactly the same as what you are "protected" with by those who serve.




Willie


.
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Old September 17, 2012, 08:35 AM   #9
Brian Pfleuger
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I'm no lawyer but I can easily see how using the same exact weapons your PD uses could be used against you....

"Look at this guy, he thinks he's a cop. THAT'S why he shot this poor, innocent choir boy, who just happened to have noticed the broken window and was crawling in to alert the homeowner."

I'm pretty sure most anything can be used against used by a prosecutor so-inclined. Your safest bet, in my estimation, would be to use something popular and common among "regular" people. A "normal", unmodified gun. "Normal", commercial ammo.
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Old September 17, 2012, 08:45 AM   #10
Stressfire
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Even outside of the legal complications that could arise.....would you really want your extremely expensive NFA item to be sitting in an evidence locker for an untold amount of time when a $300-$500 shotgun or rifle would have done the job just fine?
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Old September 17, 2012, 10:18 AM   #11
maestro pistolero
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Quote:
Even outside of the legal complications that could arise.....would you really want your extremely expensive NFA item to be sitting in an evidence locker for an untold amount of time when a $300-$500 shotgun or rifle would have done the job just fine?
No disrespect intended, but i never understand this line of reasoning. If I use an expensive firearm to save my life, and I have to part with it temporarily or even permanently, I will have zero regrets.

In the case of a suppressor, my hearing is worth exponentially more than the cost of any suppressor, and even more so because I am a lifetime music professional.

Any indoor gunfire, but especially rifles and shotguns, can do permanent and severe damage to one's hearing. Young children with undeveloped ears are even more susceptible to hearing loss. I would hate to have to choose between my life and my hearing (or a loved one's life or hearing). But losing money (the cost of that equipment) wouldn't even be a consideration.
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Old September 17, 2012, 10:29 AM   #12
Stressfire
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Quote:
No disrespect intended, but i never understand this line of reasoning.
None taken

Even if stored or even confiscated - a gun that has saved your life has done it's job. But...depending...sometimes nice things can go "missing." Admittedly, that is an extreme. But I still would not really want something that cost me a great deal of $ and time to get being stored in unknown conditions.
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Old September 17, 2012, 11:56 AM   #13
MLeake
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Stressfire, again, that is still putting cost ahead of survival.

All else being equal, I want the most reliable gun I own for SD.

Followed by accuracy.

I don't include power, because the wimpiest center fire handguns I own will handle .38+P, so all of them will work if good hits are achieved.

So, if my Les Baer and my CZ are equally reliable, but I get better first hits with the Baer on a regular basis, then the Baer is the preferred carry even if it cost $1200 more.

OTOH, if a less expensive gun is equally reliable and accurate, then I can worry about carrying the less expensive gun.

I won't handicap myself in any way out of concern for potential monetary loss.

Edit: Going back to the main point of the thread, my AR is not suppressed, but I realize that if I ever use it in an HD scenario, it could negatively impact some grand jurors or regular jurors, and it could bias some LEOs or DAs. Whether it should is immaterial; the fact is, it very well could.

I don't think I would ever get involved in a questionable shooting. However, some people have different biases, and I don't get to choose the responding officers, assigned detective, medical examiner, crime scene investigator, or prosecutor. Any one of those may have a very negative view of "assault weapons" in civilian hands.

That does not mean I would not use the AR, but it does mean I am aware of possible extra risks that could entail.

Last edited by MLeake; September 17, 2012 at 12:18 PM.
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Old September 17, 2012, 03:19 PM   #14
Stressfire
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Quote:
Stressfire, again, that is still putting cost ahead of survival.
Not from my perspective - to date, my most expensive purchase has been my Beretta, with GP100 a close second. All the others have been budget imports, 1 of which is my current EDC and is utterly dependable.

But to the point of the OP's question - as little as I might want to use an NFA weapon or weapon accessory in SD/HD, if it was all I had at hand, there would be no choice - I would use what I had and really hope that the powers that be agree
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Old September 18, 2012, 01:09 PM   #15
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For obvious reasons stemming from that case down in Florida we ain't sposed to talk about here I would not suggest using a Kel Tec PF-9 for EDC or SD if you live in a gun unfriendly area. I can just hear a NY or CA Prosecutor now "He used the same gun as this racist child killer! He must be a racist child killer too!". I really think this all comes down to knowing where you live and the "mood" of the community if you will. Myself being from Illinois nearish to Chicago; I would be very concerned legally speaking if I needed to defend my home against criminal "youths".

Does it make any LEGAL or for that matter common sense that people get railroaded because of the type of equipment they are using; rather than a substanative argument about the facts of the encounter leading up to the self defence shooting? No. That poor guy in Arizona with the Glock 20 comes to mind.

Does it happen ? Yes.

My SD handgun for the home is primairly a P229. Very similar guns can be or are used in PD's in my area. I also mostly load up with speed gold dot's these days; again common ammo that I am sure some local PD's use. I would not STOP using it if I found out all of the local PD's around me switched brands; but on the same tolken I am not going out searching for the most deadly expensive exotic 9mm load known to man.

I think the bottom line in all of this is if you have an aggressive prosecutor who has taken a case to the point where your choice of a defensive weapon is in play that you are already in serious trouble. If they are digging 20 years into your past to see if there is a single person with a single bad things to say about you, or about any off color jokes you ever told; you are in trouble. There is nothing you really can do about that except midigate the risk based on where you live.

If you live in the heart of the anti gun empire like NYC, Newark or Chicago it might not be a bad idea to see if you can make the exact gun and ammo choice used by the local PD work for you. That being said I would NEVER admit under oath as others have pointed out the fact that the equipment is police issue factored into your decision to select it; less that fact be used against you.
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Old September 20, 2012, 11:50 AM   #16
DieHard06
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Quote:
I'm no lawyer but I can easily see how using the same exact weapons your PD uses could be used against you....

"Look at this guy, he thinks he's a cop. THAT'S why he shot this poor, innocent choir boy, who just happened to have noticed the broken window and was crawling in to alert the homeowner."

I'm pretty sure most anything can be used against used by a prosecutor so-inclined. Your safest bet, in my estimation, would be to use something popular and common among "regular" people. A "normal", unmodified gun. "Normal", commercial ammo.
I am not saying that it couldn't happen, but IMHO I find that to be a much more unlikely outcome in the case of a handgun or shotgun. But, then again, most police departments use handguns and shotguns that are common in the civilian market. I think it would be positive support to your argument that you use what your local police use. If they did accuse you in the manner that was stated, it could easily be presented in a more positive light by the defense.
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Old October 5, 2012, 10:15 PM   #17
ibewbull
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Revolver is king.

I think we need to inject a bit of humor here.
This is why I carry a revolver with silver bullets.
Reasons are:
1. It matches my white hat well.
2. We know the good guy wears a white hat.
3. You never see a city folk with his six gun turned sideways.
4. It worked for the Lone Ranger.
5. Works on werewolves too. Don't know about zombies.

Seriously though I am packing my .38 M 640, 66 two and a half inch 66 or 3 inch 686. No jams no bending over to pick up brass in the yard and no distraction of watching where the brass lands. A real bad hebbit I have. Like watching coins fly through the air.
All the guns conceal well in Simply Rugged pancakes.
I really don't want to follow LE examples as wasting ammo like in NY is not my thing. After all twitching is not a continued attack when the perp is down for the count.
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